Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who continues to assemble his potential administration dream team, has reportedly tapped California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as the Health and Human Services Secretary.
The New York Times, citing “people familiar with the transition’s deliberations,” reports that Biden’s decision to nominate Becerra to HHS, a cabinet-level position that occupies a middle-rung in the ladder of presidential succession, came as “a surprise.”
The California Attorney General had only surfaced as a potential candidate for the position in recent days, and back in November, scattered reports indicated that Becerra could be in the running for attorney general rather than HHS secretary. Other reports indicated that he could also be a contender for a U.S. Senate vacancy in California.
A former 12-term congressman, Becerra served as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the 1990s, and oversaw the group’s unofficial partisan transition when he took a trip to Cuba that prompted Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart to resign from the caucus, The Hill reported in 2008. Both Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart were born in Cuba.
The group is now led by Congressman Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of ex-Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, and counts no Republicans among its sitting members.
In recent years, Becerra, who took over the state attorney general’s office in 2017, has developed a favorable rapport with the California resistance for hitting the Trump administration with dozens of lawsuits, including on the Affordable Care Act.
“COVID-19 has made one thing undeniable: we must safeguard the Affordable Care Act — lives depend on it,” said Becerra ahead of oral arguments in California v. Texas, the pending case that some Democrats used in their opposition to Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
“Every nation around the world has had to confront the devastating impact of the global pandemic. The United States, under President Trump’s watch, continues to set records going in the wrong direction. Millions infected, hundreds of thousands dead. As if on cue, the Trump Administration cavalierly continues its march to dismantle the ACA and strip Americans of their healthcare. We will do everything we can to defeat this unprecedented assault on a critical federal law by a sitting President,” said Becerra.
The Los Angeles Times notes that, should Becerra receive confirmation, he would be overseeing a “sprawling federal agency that spends more than $1.4 trillion annually and is responsible for the health coverage of more than 100 million Americans, mostly through the mammoth government Medicare and Medicaid plans.” Back in 2017, Becerra told Fox News that he was a supporter of Medicare For All.
“I’ve been a supporter of Medicare for all for the 24 years that I was in Congress. This year, as attorney general, I would fight for that if we had an opportunity to put that forward in the state of California, because I think what we do is we give people that certainty that they’re going to able to access a doctor or a hospital,” said Becerra, reports CNS News.
Although Biden has not been a supporter of Medicare For All, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) backed the Medicare For All Act in the Senate back in 2019 along with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 13 other Democrats.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.
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